Dear Prudence Misinformed About Bisexuality

PRUDIE_STANDING_MEDIUM.jpg.CROP.promo-medium2Slate advice columnist Emily Yoffe, better known as Dear Prudenceresponded to a bisexual reader’s question about coming out by telling her to stay closeted. In the past, the columnist has said positive things about bisexuality, but in this case said the wife may be using the B-word as a step to being gay.

A reader using the pen name “Irrelevant Closet” told the columnist she had just come to realize her sexuality, has already come out to a supportive husband, and wanted to know whether she should come out to family and friends. Prudence answered that the woman’s coming out as bi would be “discomfiting.”

“Let’s say you discovered a late breaking interest in plushophilia, or you now realized you were turned on by being a dominatrix,” Prudence wrote. “This would not be news you’d be required to announce at the next Thanksgiving gathering. The rapidity with which society has accepted, even embraced, gay sexual orientation is a glorious phenomenon. But you are confusing your personal sexual exploration with a social imperative. It would be one thing if you left your marriage because you were pursuing relationships with women. That would be worth talking about — if you wanted to — as a way of explaining the dissolution of your marriage. But you say you are planning to not only stay with your husband, but remain monogamous. I agree with your husband that making a public announcement about something so private will not be illuminating but discomfiting.”

Prudence has in the past given good advice when dealing with questions submitted by gay and lesbian writers, but clearly falls short in her knowledge of bisexuality. In fact, her response seems to indicate that the reader’s orientation would only be worth disclosing to family if she left her husband for a woman, recycling the oft-repeated myth that bisexuality is just a “stepping stone” on the way to being “full-blown gay.” Studies have found that these disparities stem in part from the stress imposed by staying in the closet as well as experiencing biphobia and the erasure of bisexual’s identity — which Prudence so clearly engages in with her response.

The Advocate published a new series looking to dispel common misconceptions about bisexuality, including the myth that bisexuality is irrelevant if the partners are in a committed, monagamous relationship.

If you want to write Prudence and tell you what you think, you can reach her at: [email protected].

Mike Szymanski
Mike Szymanski has written about bisexual issues since 1989 and has one of the longest-running regular bisexual columns as the National Bisexuality Examiner. He came out as bisexual in a cover story of Genre magazine, which resulted in more than 50 television appearances, including Ricki Lake, Phil Donahue Show and 20/20. Szymanski won the Lambda Literary Award in 2007 for co-authoring an informative humor book “The Bisexual’s Guide to the Universe: Quips, Tips and Lists for Those Who Go Both Ways.” Write him at [email protected]